Saturday’s announcement by the German Football Association (DFB) that Ballack was struggling to make the game is threatening to throw Joachim Low’s plans into disarray, with the Chelsea man a crucial part of the German cog.
However, Low is still hopeful his skipper will be able to face the Spanish, revealing the German medical staff are “working round the clock” to aid Ballack’s recovery.
“Michael Ballack has not been able to train the past two days,” said Low.
“On Friday he had problems with his right calf, the muscle has hardened, and he couldn’t possibly participate in the training today, so we will have to wait and see how things develop overnight.”
Low admits that he is already making contingency plans in case Ballack does not recover in time.
“Our medical people are working round the clock, but we have to think seriously about what’s going to happen if Michael Ballack cannot play,” Low added.
“There are two possibilities, Tim Borowski or Bastian Schweinsteiger, both of them can take his position, but we will decide that tomorrow.”
Ballack has played every minute of Germany’s campaign in Austria and Switzerland so far, including the whole of Wednesday’s semi-final against Turkey, and Low admits they are in the dark about exactly how the injury was picked up
“We don’t really know how it happened, during a match a player may get hit somehow or may injure a muscle and he may not even notice the day after,” said the coach.
“But perhaps two or three days afterwards the muscle tightens up. Yesterday in the morning he had an inflamed muscle and he was in pain and the calf was hardened, and it hasn’t improved since yesterday, nobody really knows what happened.”
Considering that Schweinsteiger has also started the last two matches alongside Ballack in the Germany midfield, it seems likely that Borowski will be the new face should changes need to be made.
The Werder Bremen man has only managed 22 minutes of action during the finals so far, but Low insists he has confidence in his fringe players to be able to come in and do a job.
“Well I haven’t counted Michael Ballack out yet and in spite of everything I hope he can play tomorrow, he’s team captain and he’s an extremely important player,” Low said.
“If he can’t play then someone else will take his position. We have a squad of 23 players and even those who haven’t played much have participated in training, they are highly motivated so we will have to cope with the situation and find a different solution. We are going to find a solution.”
Low, who insists he will not be making radical changes to his tactics whether Ballack plays or not, revealed the 31-year-old Chelsea man is in positive spirits despite the possibility of missing yet another big match for his country.
In the 2002 World Cup Ballack had to sit out the final through suspension, while in the 2006 World Cup he missed the third-placed play-off against Portugal because of injury.
“This afternoon when I talked to him, in spite of everything, he was optimistic. He wasn’t depressed because according to what the medical people are telling him there is a chance for Michael Ballack to play tomorrow. There are still more than 24 hours left.
“Of course for every player who misses a final through injury it is a huge disappointment, but let’s not talk about what would happen if…let’s do everything so that he can play.”
Germany are considered by many to be underdogs going into the match at Vienna’s Ernst Happel Stadion with opponents Spain the form team of the finals and unbeaten in their last 21 matches.
In contrast, Germany have not always been at the top of their game in the past few weeks, and can consider themselves somewhat fortunate to have made it past Turkey in the semi-finals after weathering a first-half battering before winning 3-2 late on.
Low is adamant his side will put on a better display this weekend though, saying: “The Spaniards are the favourites perhaps but we are optimistic nonetheless and we are confident.
“I said a few days ago that the enormous pressure that there was regarding whether we might have to leave the tournament early has now left, now we have positive pressure and we are highly motivated.
“We will be doing our best tomorrow and we will certainly do better than we did against Turkey.”